Monday, May 29, 2017

Bigger is Better - Loot

    So which is better?  one pound of gold or ten pounds of gold?  Ten pounds, of course.  But how much better?  Well, ten times better.

    OK, which is better, a one carat diamond or a ten carat diamond?  Ten carats of course.  But how much better?  Well, FIFTY times better!  No really!  When you are talking about things that cannot be joined together (like melting gold down to make bigger pieces), bigger (typically rarer) sizes are not just more valuable, they are hugely more valuable.

    So what does this affect?  Well, all of the gemstones to start with, but there are more than just that.  Things like gemstones are also affected.  Things like pearls.  One of the best examples of this in Fletnern is the substance known as chrystalist.  Chrystalist is the only known substance that makes safe mentalist talismans.  So in order to make bigger and better talismans, you need to be able to carve more enchantments into the piece of petrified whatever it is.  So bigger pieces are vitally important.

    But that’s still sort of a gemstone.  What else?  Well horns, or more commonly tusks.  There are tons of things that can be made out of small pieces of ivory, but when you want the gateway to your camp to be two huge elephant tusks of gleaming ivory, you need full tusks, not broken pieces.  And bigger is better.  Getting the tusks off of some three year old cow is not the same level of importance as getting the tusks off of a thirty year old bull.

    Last one:  parchment.  The parchment you can make out of a lambskin is significantly smaller (and therefore less valuable) than what you can get from a full grown steer.  Not as impressive as the diamond, but an important example nonetheless.

    What you are really paying for here is rarity.  Not only are diamonds rare, but big ones are vastly more rare than tiny ones.  Big unicorn horns are far more rare than smaller ones, and intact ones are more rare than broken ones.  The rarer something is, the more expensive that thing is, assuming that you cannot just join things together.  Even when you can join things together, like building a marble altar, having huge pieces so there are no seams will make the bigger pieces that much more desirable and expensive.

    When does it matter?  It matters when the adventuring party recognizes that the altar stone of the subterranean temple they just ransacked is made of rare marble, but the piece is so big, that they can’t carry it.  Cutting it to manageable pieces is going to dramatically reduce the value.  Is it worth transporting the huge block of stone?  It is important when you steal the king’s scepter and there is a 50 carat ruby on the end of it.  Sure, the ruby is worth a king’s ransom, literally, but trying to fence an object that is obviously stolen from the king is incredibly dangerous.  Do you cut it into smaller rubies in an effort to hide what it once was, knowing that you are losing a huge amount of wealth?  I like putting problems like these in front of my adventuring parties.  I think it’s fun to make them think about strategy outside of battle.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Modern vs. Fantasy - What’s real?

    As most of you know, I spend an enormous amount of time researching the economics of how things should work in a fantasy environment.  Because I love treasure, I spend much of that time on treasures of the past and how things would probably work out.  But sometimes, this doesn’t work.
    Case in point - elephant tusks.  Now it may seem contradictory, but I do believe that we should avoid killing elephants or any other endangered animal.  The poaching of elephants and the likely driving of these magnificent creatures into extinction is morally wrong and needs to stop.  But in a fantasy game where no real elephants are harmed, I absolutely use ivory as treasure.

    But here’s the issue.  Elephant experts have noticed that the average elephant’s tusks are half the weight now as they were 100-150 years ago.  Why?  Because the poachers are killing the elephants with the biggest tusks.  Let’s be clear - Poaching an elephant today is a risky job (a criminal job, but ... you know what I mean).  So if they are going to risk shooting an elephant for his tusks, they’re going to get the biggest tusks they can find.  Well, the biggest elephants have the biggest tusks.  If you kill all the big tusked elephants, then what is left in the genetic pool is the elephants with smaller tusks, or even no tusks.

    Is this real?  Yes!  Imagine that beavers were naturally white, but there was a mutant beaver (an anti-albino) that was brown.  If everyone wanted the white beavers and specifically killed them, then the formerly extremely rare brown beavers would begin to increase in population percentage until what had been a rare and unseen thing, became the majority.  That is what is happening with tusk-less elephants.  They aren’t the majority yet, but they are moving up in percentages.

    Why do you care?  Because if you only do a little research, you will be told that an elephant’s tusks weigh 100lbs.  Yeah, today they do, but that is half what they were before we perfected firearms.  You will also see some incredibly higher dollar values for ivory today - but those are black market prices.  What I am saying is that unless you do even more research to get to the bottom of these types of things, you will be misled as to what fantasy era elephant tusks should weigh and what their value in a fantasy “historical” culture would be.

    This is just more of the reasoning behind not trying to equate modern economics with fantasy economics, but it is exactly the type of thing that should matter when you’re figuring out your loot economics.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Organized Crime - How it works in Fantasy

I can’t be the only one who both understands that organized crime is bad, but still kind of likes it.  Not that I want to be a part of it, either as a victim or perpetrator, but I like the movies, the novels, the true crime stories, and yes the mystique.  But how do you stuff that into a fantasy role-playing world?

That’s what Killer Crime Families of Garnock is all about.  It’s also known as All About Organized Crime in Fantasy.  And that is the intent.  Not only organized crime, but also how enforcers and thugs can be used as FRPG player characters and NPC enemies.  Plus, hopefully by now you have a taste for how Board Enterprises does things, and we think we’re pretty focused on things that are not just fun, but make sense too.  So we’re presenting crime families that can actually work in your fantasy world.  Yeah, that’s the night clubs, the extortion, and the rest of it.

There’s a twist this time.  We’ve presented two editions of Small Bites already, two full editions (Avatar of Manoto and Mercenary Vators of Myork).  Well the intent there was to give you a taste, but only a taste.  Have you heard the story about someone who won’t buy the cow because the milk is already free?  Well, there’s no more free lunch.  The edition that is out there for free (yes!  it is free!) is the World Walker edition, in other words, it is only a piece.  The full edition (what we call the Game Master’s edition) is only available to our Patreon patrons.  So you can get the World Walker edition for free by clicking here, or you can get the Game Master edition by clicking here.

The World of Fletnern is still free!  You can check it out on our site or at the wiki.  But if you want to get involved in building it - choosing what’s worked on first, choosing which things we focus on, all of these items - then we want you to join us through the Patreon project.

Think about it this way:  we are offering to work with you to custom build a world focused on the things you want.  Fletnern’s got everything in it, but if no one cares about the barbarians running around in the frozen tundra, we’re not going to bother talking about it.  If you want to learn more about the traveling carnivals and/or fortune tellers, we’re going to do editions based on that!  Do you want more articles about locations, or characters, or treasure, or religions, or whatever?  OK, we’ll do that!  That’s how it’s going to work.  It really is going to work that way - custom built world, just the way you want it.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Being (Fantasy) Conservation Minded

    One of our more common examples of economics in a fantasy realm is the way that one adventuring party found a way to harvest mastodon tusks and flooded the world with cheap ivory.  But nothing is without consequences in the world of Fletnern.

    Not too long after the source of the ivory became apparent, a group of pacamen came looking for the person who was selling all the ivory.  The pacamen (for those who don’t yet know) are like minotaurs, except that they are elephant headed instead of bull headed.  As such, they have tusks - short ones, but tusks.  They see elephants as incredibly important objects of their religion.  And they are willing to fight to protect elephants and elephant graveyards.  Their assumption was that someone had discovered some manner of elephant graveyard and was lying about the mastodons.  They came to put a stop to it.

    The point really isn’t about ivory or pacamen, but instead about religions and perceived morality.  Chances are, no matter what a people find to be valuable, there will be some group that believes that the items of value should not be disturbed.  It could be ivory, the hides of predatory cats, special aromatic woods, or the landscape that was once atop a coal strip mine.  Especially in a world with elves and numerous gods, someone is going to be upset by just about anything.

    So what do you do as a GM?  Well, I let the players do whatever they want, but then decide how to punish them if they seem to be doing something too easily.  Truth be told, the pacamen were not really a deterrent to the PCs harvesting the ivory.  This was because the pacamen couldn’t survive the frigid north where the mastodons were, plus they were not numerous enough to start a war with the humans.  But the threat was there - a reminder that nothing can be gotten for free.  The PCs hired on extra protection for their ivory caravan, expecting trouble from the pacamen, slightly decreasing their profits.

    Yes, I think everything can turn into a mission or quest spark.  In this case, nothing really came of it, but it was a part of what the party had to consider when taking missions:  Could they risk being away while these guys were in town sort of looking for a problem?  Loot doesn’t have to be easy!

    So what else can you do?  Major jewelry items were stolen from a temple decades ago and are now cursed.  The elves think that the emeralds taken from that mine belong to the goddess of {green or whatever} and should never have been taken and certainly not cut.  The centaurs’ god is actually a zebra centaur and they therefore object to anyone killing zebras for meat or hides.  The ironwood grove is sacred to the fairies and they refuse to allow anyone to harvest the trees.  Jet or ebony is seen as being evil, and no one in town will buy it.  An alchemical potion requires the heart of an eagle, but taking the heart from an eagle causes the eagle to haunt you for the rest of your days.  This is high fantasy after all!